Washington D.C.- Victor Velculescu, a 29-year old cancer researcher at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in Baltimore, is the grand prize winner of a prestigious science award for his enterprising work on a technique that provides a "snapshot" of all the active genes inside a cell. This method promises to be a boon for scientists worldwide searching for cures to cancer and other diseases. On the eve of the completion of the Human Genome Project, Velculescu's work anticipates the next millennium's scientific challenge--to discover the function of the thousands of genes in the human body that will be sequenced in this global effort. His winning essay will appear in the 19 November issue of Science.
Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, a leading biotechniques company, and Science established the Young Scientists Prize together in 1995 to provide support to molecular biology scientists at the beginning of their careers. The judging panel may present awards in four different geographical areas (North America, Europe, Japan, and all other countries). The regional winners each receive $5,000; the grand prize winner is selected from the pool of regional winners and receives $25,000. Velculescu will be honored together with four other regional winners on 9 December at Uppsala University in Sweden, in a ceremony that coincides with the Nobel Prize festivities.
For his thesis, Velculescu developed a method known as SAGE (serial analysis of gene expression) that allows scientists to rapidly analyze the overall pattern of genes expressed in a cell. There are approximately 100,000 genes in the human genome, but only a fraction of them are expressed or "turned on" in a given type of cell.
"For a long time researchers have wanted to have a sense of which genes are active in which cells, which is what SAGE tells us," Velculescu said. "My particular interest is in how this technique could be applied to look at genes in human disease, such as what kinds of gene
Contact: Heather Singmaster
American Association for the Advancement of Science